But whenever a friend with a car heads out to one of the big supermarchés on the periphery of the city, I hitch a ride. I love to poke around, checking out what’s available, what’s prevalent, and what is non-existent. This sport is only fun when I have nowhere to be because the grocery store lines are un-flipping-believable. But that’s another article.
So here’s my rundown. The fruit and vegetable section is enormous. I mean, HUGE. And busy. I’ve never had to wait in line to get at the tomatoes before, but it’s happened to me here. This section includes most things I’m familiar with although it’s really light on broccoli. Which is just fine with me. Don’t tell my kids but I’d probably be happy if I never had to eat broccoli again for the rest of my life. There is a higher preponderance of endive, shallots, leeks, fennel, and zucchini, a gazillion types of lettuce and various bean pods that mystify me. I mean, who really takes the time to shell these things, anyway?
The proportions of the chip section….that enormous, colorful and caloric aisle in the U.S. is only a little larger than the milk subdivision. Oh they’ve got salty snacks and some are REALLY nummy, but they obviously do not carry the importance in the French diet of…say….CHEESE.
The cheese aisle…now that’s another story! Do not get stuck here at 6 o’clock at night when you need to be somewhere in a hurry. You won’t get there. Trying to get through the mob is problem enough but making up your mind also takes time. Hard, soft, pasteurized or not, fresh or aged, goat, sheep or cow. This thing goes on forever and doesn’t include the deli section of cheese (a small portion of it on the left), which also blows the mind for variety. The yogurt sector is the same. I don’t know what the French fascination is with yogurt, but they’ve got an entire aisle of it…. that and creamy pudding type desserts. So I shan’t worry about them. They’re getting their vitamin D.
Which brings me to the deli. There are sausages (some of which I just don’t even want to know their origins) a few salads, you can ask for sliced meats, sauces, cheeses and a few ready-made savory pies, pastas and roasted meats. But I want to point out there is not one, single, shuddering bowl of pink fluff or pistachio goo. Nor, have I seen a single clear plastic catering pan heaping with bright yellow, over-mayonaised potato salad. In fact, in spite of the fact that mayonnaise is French, I rarely see salads bound together with the stuff. Perhaps that’s different in the north…but this here is olive oil country, cowboy!
Chocolate also has an aisle of it’s own and I have been known to spend 20…okay, maybe more…minutes there examining my options. And don’t bother me while I’m pondering either! It could get ugly. Chocolate chips are not included in the French penchant for the cocoa bean, however.
The wine aisle is not an aisle. It’s regional airport landing field. And it’s not one runway…. it’s three. It’s miles bigger than the beer section in a Wisconsin liquor department, which is saying something! Local wines, wines from all the other regions of France, very little foreign wine, red, white, rose, dessert wines, wines for 75 euros and wines for 2 euros. Boxes of wines and cases of wines. Wines on special and wines for special occasions. This is just too much for me! While I may have a genetic inclination to drink real milk, I do not have that special, distinctly French gene that seems to just understand wine. Mind you, that doesn’t keep me away from this particular aisle. I look at it as research.